Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Nineteen.
Tonight’s story, Eventide Part 1 of 1
This episode is brought to you by opopanax.wordpress.com
Come for the art, but stay for the… art.
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – 400 to 600 words brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
This evening we bring you a tale of love and horror, a story about the difference between night and day.
Flash Pulp 019 – Eventide Part 1 of 1
Ellis flipped off the monitor and stood, his kneecaps popping, the office chair he’d been using wandering into a trajectory dangerous to the cat.
Mittens J. Nelson dodged the furniture, and after a reproachful glare at his inattentive master, padded from the room.
Rubbing an eye, Ellis began collecting up the detritus of his day – a stack of empty soda cans, half a plate of pasta left from supper, some McDonald’s wrappers from lunch. Tossing what he could, he slid through the apartment in the dark, bouncing off the recliner and entering the kitchen to deposit his dishes. There was a note on the counter.
“Hope your reports are finally done. (If they are, why aren’t you in bed with me already?) The coffee maker is set to go for the morning, I thought you might need it. Miss & love you, XOX, Monica.”
He smiled, flipped off the light, and again walked into the darkness, this time towards the bedroom.
As he slid between the cool sheets, Monica rustled.
“Love you,” she said.
“Love you too,” Ellis whispered, settling his limbs amongst her familiar contours.
“Love you,” she repeated, and he realized her words were likely echoing from some deep dream.
“Love you too,” he repeated, once again smiling.
“Murder you,” she said.
He told himself it was just part of the dream.
Still, he didn’t reply.
After a moment the room’s silence was broken only by the couple’s rhythmic breathing.
To celebrate the closing of The Michigan Deal, Ellis and Monica had spent a night dancing. Ellis had resisted at first, he had a long standing anti-dance policy, but Monica insisted, and the cut of her new red dress sealed the deal.
It was late by the time they’d returned home, and slightly later by the time they’d re-mastered how to use their door key. Floating past the entry closet on a cloud of daiquiris, Monica shooed away Mittens J., who’d begun to entwine himself around her leg.
Fixing Ellis with a wicked eye, she released the bonds of her dress.
An hour later Ellis was at the fridge, looking for something to help down the advil he hoped would proof him against the pain of the coming morning. Mewling his discontent, the cat slammed its head into his ankle, extravagantly massaging his calf with its neck.
Grabbing the Meow Mix from the top of the fridge, he located the feline’s dish and filled it to the brim.
Having downed the Advil with two mouthfuls of milk straight from the container, Ellis made his way along the hall to the bedroom, gently weaving, occasionally lifting a hand to the wall to straighten his course.
Finally managing a controlled crash onto the bed, he leaned over Monica, planting an awkward kiss on her temple. Her first response was to continue her whistling snoring, but after a moment a thought seemed to swim into her mouth from the depths of her slumber.
“I’ll gut you like a rotting catfish,” she said.
There was a brief stretch of silence as her gentle wheeze continued.
He decided to sleep on the couch.
“I’m sorry, really, I don’t know why I’d say those things, but you know I love you,” she said, taking a long sip of her iced tea.
They’d ordered twenty minutes previous, but the smiling girl in the black apron had yet to return with their plates of cheese cappelletti. Still, Ellis was glad that the patio area of Bistro-nauts had remained empty for most of their discussion.
“Listen, I know, I feel like an idiot for worrying about it, but you’d be pretty freaked out if every now and then, while coming to bed, I informed you I was going to shiv you in the dark.”
“Just wake me up next time OK? I thought you were sleeping on the couch because you were mad at me for something, you really had me worried.”
The smell of baked cheese drifted to the table, their server close behind.
Monica had spent another breakfast apologizing, departing for work with a kiss and a naughty promise for atonement.
Ellis dragged his slippered feet to the couch, lifting his phone to call Bill at the office. It was the third day in a row he’d begged off with a feeble excuse, and Bill, with a chiding tone, suggested he use up some vacation time.
Turning off the cell entirely, he curled up on the plush couch cushions and pulled the scratchy woolen blanket over his head, hoping to blot out the bright morning.
Fifteen minutes later he snorted awake, tossing off the blanket and coming suddenly to his feet.
In his dream Monica had been standing over him in the living room, a black handled fillet knife in hand, muttering: “gut you, cut you, gut you, cut you, gut, cut, gut, cut,” – the chant that now filled the reality of his nights.
There was nowhere within the apartment to escape to, and nowhere he wanted to be without the shining Monica of daylight.
He held her even as she murmured.
He’d tried the couch, ear plugs, falling asleep to music – the unknown had only pushed slumber further away.
In the shadowed bedroom he could see no horizon, no time before this period of endless fatigue, and certainly no end to it.
He shook her awake.
“Er, what?” she asked, her puffy face coming off her pillow.
“You were talking again,” he replied, the relief of hearing reason from her mouth nearly bringing him to tears.
“Jesus, Ellis, it’s,” she fumbled for the clock. “4 am! I’ve actually got to work in the morning you know.”
She rolled over.
For nearly an hour, Ellis stood at the foot of the bed, Mittens J. Nelson kneading at his socked feet.
Earlier he’d spent an eternity on the mattress, Monica’s slurred words building a ball of tension in his stomach that eventually choked his lungs and brought the taste of bile to the back of his throat.
So he’d gotten up to leave – but his now regular exodus had been halted by a snort and change in the tone of Monica’s sleep muttering.
He’d waited, inwardly pleading for quiet, and, for an instant, he’d held the salvation of silence.
He squeezed his traveling pillow as a child embraces a teddy bear.
There was a grunting snore, and the spell was broken. A croaking toad’s tone drifted from the bed:
“Gonna rip you open, Ellis. Gonna mash your insides between my fingers like ripe bananas.”
It was too much for the fear and frustration rattling around in his sleep-starved brain. Seeing no escape, he’d frozen for that long hour, joined only by the cat.
Finally, a new idea took root, fertile in the muck of his brain’s fetid exhaustion.
Kicking away Mittens J., he adjusted his grip on the pillow.
He began to shuffle towards the bed.
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